SPOKANE, Wash. — You don't need to know basketball to know that Killian Tillie is pretty talented at it.
"We’re volleyball players, and we don’t really understand basketball, but I think he’s good," said Tillie's mom, Caroline.
Good seems like a fair assessment for a player who’s nominated for several national player of the year awards.
However the last year and a half has been tough for the Gonzaga forward, as he has suffered a hip injury, a foot injury, two ankle injuries, and now is recovering from a preventative knee surgery.
"Injury is part of being a high level sportsman," Caroline said. "It happens and it happens a little too much to Killian. It’s just really bad, bad luck. We feel sad for him when it happens and try not to talk too much about it and keep the spirit up."
"I’m proud because he's always fighting to come back at his best level," said his father, Laurent. "I’m really surprised with all of the injuries he got last year, he was always able to come back and give what he can give, even if he was not 100%."
But right now he is still resting. His knee surgery a few weeks ago definitely caught the duo by surprise.
"We didn’t expect it because we didn’t talk about knees and feet and stuff anymore. So all of the sudden he says, 'Yeah, I need to get surgery in Chicago. It’s not a big deal.' It’s like, 'Oh my god, again? Will it stop?' He says, 'Well, it’s not a big deal, it’s okay, we’ll be good.' But still the team starts to play and he’s out just like last year and it’s sad. It’s just sad," Laurent said.
"Especially because even during the summer in France he was practicing hard," he added. "He was working hard with basketball with physical practice. So what happened? Again? We were surprised."
Regardless of his injury, Tillie still is a leader on this team, being the squad’s only four-year player.
They’ll need his play but they’ll need his voice a well.
"We arrived Monday and went straight to practice. He’s standing and yelling at the kids and he’s participating and yeah, it looks like the boss, it’s really funny," Caroline said with a laugh.
"Leader means you need to be available. You have to speak. I hope he will do it," Laurent said.
"I think he will do it. He’s ready," chimed in Caroline.
And in terms of play on the court? His parents hope that speaks for itself.
"Like, free," Caroline says of how she hopes her son plays this year. "It’s his last year so he should give everything he can give and just have fun on the court and be a leader and do as good as he can. I think he can."
"We have fun watching him play because it’s so easy," Laurent said. "He has a kind of vision of the game that I haven’t seen so much."
If he’s able to be healthy this season, that vision and ease could lead to the place many people think he belongs.
"We would be very happy for him. So proud," said Caroline. "That’s the ultimate thing for a basketball player. Everybody wants to go to the NBA. I hope the dream comes true."